Ricky Rubio was the subject of much weird, strange, and mostly uninformed fodder when he was entering the NBA Draft back in 2009. Depending on who spoke of him, he was either going to be the next Magic Johnson or a sure-fire bust based on the fact he played so sparingly for FC Barcelona Bàsquet.
There was even a contingent, some supposedly coming from the Rubio camp, that he was going to be such a star that he would only play in a major market. The hoopla, hype, backlash because of the two, all provided a combination of things to inevitably happen which would force us to reexamine Rubio time and time again.
It is what it was — which is merely a polite way of saying no one has yet to perfect the scouting of any player. Whether that be domestic, abroad, or formulated in some AAU basement. Until a player actually plays in the NBA, we have no idea if they are going to be the next Jonathon Bender or Steph Curry.
What we have available to us now, though, is the luxury of hindsight. Moreover, four years of Ricky Rubio playing in the NBA. It is with that we can safely say he isn’t going to ever become the next Magic or Pistol Pete.
Let me be clear here: Rubio is a fine player—one who helps the Minnesota Timberwolves in a variety of ways. In fact, they are much better with him on the court as opposed to him cheering from the bench.
So we are not talking about Rubio in absolutes here. Nuance, as it should always be, is needed in this discussion. He is not garbage, nor is he great. He is somewhere in the middle, as are most NBA players. A guy with some true worth, with legitimate issues in his game, and the type of guy—now 25-years old—who is unlikely to get measurably better for the rest of his career.
Pointing to the positives; Rubio is clearly a dynamic playmaker. For his entire career, he is a near double-double guy—averaging just over 10 points, 8.2 assists, and 4.3 per. While an argument can be made that some of those numbers are Rajon Rondo-hollow, few guards in the league have been as consistent putting teammates in a position to score buckets as Rubio. Not to mention, in general, that is a rather productive looking box-score for any player’s career.
He is also not as horrible a defender as we think. While not exactly good either, Rubio is competent enough that he isn’t making the T-Wolves tangibly worse by his mere presence on the hardwood. Again, no James Posey comparisons needed, but he’s certainly not James Harden, either.
The issues Rubio faces are rather enormous, however. He still can’t shoot… at all. In the game of basketball, you know, that’s not good. It would be like a magician not knowing how to perform magic or a potential United States president not knowing about reforms, bills, other humans, and things like that.
In 18 games this season, Rubio is shooting a woeful 35 percent from the floor, 24 percent from three, and—most players’ saving grace—his effective shooting percentage is a downright abominable 37 percent.
There’s no other way to discuss his ability scoring buckets in terms other than ones with negative connotations attached to such phrases and statements. It is bad. Truly bad. So bad that if there were truly a Basketball Gawd, he would have long ago struck Rubio with a bolt of lightening—or, at least, asked Minnesota to tell him to stop shooting outright.
It is unfortunate, too. All the things many of us wanted Rubio to be can never happen. It simply can’t. There’s no way for a player to have a maximum impact on games if opposing teams giggle at the idea of Rubio shooting a shot. Using the Rondo comparison again, at least, he is freakishly athletic enough to force opponents to be fearful of his attempts at the bucket.
What is the fear on the offensive end with Rubio? None, really. Even while continuing down the Rubio is a the poorest man’s Rondo wormhole, while the numbers look similar, comparing the efficiency statistics are alarming in the fact that Rondo dwarfs Rubio’s productivity in that sense. Rajon Rondo does. The guy who has been the laughing stock of offensive-inability jokes for years.
That said, that doesn’t make him a horrible player. A tremendously, historically awful bucket-maker, sure, but not the type of player a team can’t win with by having him as their starting point guard. The proof is in the pudding with the link thrust upon the column, which proves how valuable he is to Minnesota while on the court.
A simple readjusting of how we think about Rubio—if not already done—needs to happen. He can’t or shouldn’t ever be a team’s second-best player. Really, like peak-Rondo, he needs to be no better than a good team’s third best (that is stretching it, too), yet can certainly strive as a quality franchise’s fourth or fifth best player. That might seem like a dig, but it is the reality of Rubio as a player.
Luckily for us, though, regardless of how incompetent he is at getting mad-buckets, he is still as entertaining a player to watch in the NBA for his wizardly handle, magical passing abilities, and a haircut that won’t stop.